Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Sunday announced his resignation, calling for the formation of a new government as Kiev endures its worst political crisis since the “Euromaidan” revolution of 2014.
The public’s patience has grown thin with Yatsenyuk, as well as with President Petro Poroshenko, because of a struggling economy, stalled reforms and entrenched corruption. The ruling coalition has fractured as public support hits new lows.
As Western leaders have openly signaled their exasperation with the political logjam in Kiev, the choice of Yatsenyuk’s replacement is seen as a bellwether for the fate of Ukraine’s stalled reform program. Candidates for his successor include Vladimir Groysman, the parliamentary speaker and a close political ally of Poroshenko, and Natalie Jaresko, the technocrat finance minister born to Ukrainian immigrants in Chicago and favored by foreign investors.
Yatsenyuk, who narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in February, said in a weekly televised address that he would tender his resignation on Tuesday to end an “artificially created” political crisis in Kiev. He said that a new government must be selected immediately to avoid the “destabilization of the executive branch during a war,” a reference to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“The desire to change one person blinded politicians and paralyzed their political will for real change,” Yatsenyuk said. “The process of changing the government turned into a mindless running in place.”
A veteran pro-European politician who charmed Western officials in fluent, idiomatic English, Yatsenyuk had long predicted his own demise. He called himself a “political kamikaze” a week after the Maidan revolution that unseated President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, predicting widespread anger over the austerity measures needed to secure a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
Two years later, Yatsenyuk’s opponents in parliament were accusing him of bowing to corrupt interests, including oligarchs close to the pre-revolutionary government. Ahead of the abortive no-confidence vote, Poroshenko indicated that Yatsenyuk should resign, saying that to restore public trust, “Therapy is no longer sufficient. Surgery is needed.”
In his speech Sunday, Yatsenyuk signaled support for Groysman, the parliamentary speaker, noting that the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko party had nominated him to lead the new government. Groysman is widely seen as the front-runner for the position. On Sunday, Poroshenko said that he expects the parliament to announce a new coalition Tuesday.
Poroshenko had suggested that Jaresko, a former investment banker, was also a prospective candidate for the prime minister’s post. Her supporters thought she could lead a government that would sidestep the tumult of partisan politics and entrenched interests to pass a widespread reform package.
“In my opinion, only a technocratic government can take on the tasks in this political situation — meaning a team . . . not subservient to any oligarchs or “friends” of politicians, which doesn’t have future political ambitions,” Jaresko wrote in a Facebook post in March, confirming her readiness to head the new government. “I am ready to put together such a team which can be able to right now work for the interests of the entire country — all of its citizens, not separate business groups.”
The political crisis began with the resignations of a number of prominent reform officials, who claimed that entrenched interests loyal to Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk were involved in corrupt schemes.